Entries tagged with “The Restaurant at Grande Provence”.


Valentine's DayNumerous restaurants in Cape Town are offering special Valentine’s Day offers for Friday 14 February. We will update the list as we receive new information.

Cape Town

*   Catharina’s at Steenberg: Seafood Menu platter R1750 per couple; 5 course Valentine’s Set Menu R750 per person; and Vegetarian Valentine’s Menu R750 per person.  All three options include a glass of Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Rosé 2011.  Tel (021) 713-2222

*   The Restaurant at Cape Point Vineyards, Noordhoek:   4 course dinner R495, or R650 with wine pairings.  Nadine performing.  Tel 083 444 7088.

*   Frères Bistro:  3 course dinner with complimentary glass of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne R 395 per person.  Tel (021) 418-1609

*   Diemersdal Farm Eatery, Durbanville: Tapas platters and desserts as well as complimentary glass of MCC R 550 per couple.  Tel (021) 976-1810

*   Azure at the Twelve Apostles: Welcome drink, rose, and 4 course candlelight dinner R 795 per person, includes chance of winning half carat diamond from Uwe Koetter valued at R15000.  Tel (021) 437-900

*   The Kraal at the Twelve Apostles: Kir Royal welcome drink, picnic basket includes a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer, R1500 per couple.  Tel (021) 437-9000

*   Mondiall, V&A Waterfront: Oysters and glass of bubbly, 3 course dinner R350 per person.  Tel (021) 418-3003. (more…)

Festive Season

We will update our list of Christmas Eve dinners, Christmas Day lunches, and New Year’s Eve dinners and parties as we receive more details.

Christmas Eve

*   Five Flies: 4 course dinner R425 + 10% service fee.  Tel (021) 424-4442

*   Liberty’s Restaurant, DoubleTree by Hilton Cape Town Upper Eastside: 3 course dinner, R220.  Tel (021) 404-0570

*   Holden Manz, Franschhoek: 3 courses R375.  Tel (021) 876-2729

Christmas Day lunch

*   The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Franschhoek: 7 course ‘signature dinner‘ R495. Tel (021) 876-8600

*   Rivendell Wine Estate, Bot River: 4 courses R275. Tel (028) 284-9185

*   Liberty’s Restaurant, DoubleTree by Hilton Cape Town Upper Eastside:  Hot and cold buffet, R280. Tel (021) 404-0570

*   La Belle Bistro and Bakery, The Alphen Hotel, Constantia:  3 courses R495.  Tel (021) 795-6300

*   5Rooms, The Alphen Hotel, Constantia:  3 courses R495.  Tel (021) 795-6300 (more…)

Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne FestivalOne of Franschhoek’s most popular annual events is the Franschhoek Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, which will be held this coming Saturday and Sunday.  Close to 50 top Champagnes and MCCs (Méthode Cap Classique) will be available to taste, as is food supplied by Franschhoek restaurants.

The theme is ‘Black and White‘, with an emphasis on spots and stripes, and bubbly fans will be enjoying ‘The Magic of Bubbles‘ on what is forecast to be a perfect weather weekend. Not only will MCCs from Franschhoek be on show, but top sparkling wines from other regions  and Champagnes will be too.

Veuve Clicquot winemaker Pierre Casenave will be at the brand’s stand between 12h00 – 13h00 on both days. Other Champagne brands available for tasting are Billecart- Salmon, Champagne Guy Charbaut, Claude Beaufort, Follet-Ramillon, Piper Heidsieck, Thierry Lesne, and Tribaut.

The 40 well-known MCC producers pouring their bubblies are Pierre Jourdan, (more…)

Christmas Eve

*   Il Cappero, Camps Bay: 6-course dinner and glass of Prosecco R350. Tel (021) 438-7074

*   Planet Restaurant, Mount Nelson Hotel : 5-course menu R910.  Tel (021) 483-1000

*   Oasis Bistro, Mount Nelson Hotel: Buffet R650.  Tel (021) 483-1000

*   Tobago’s, Raddison Blu:  3-course R450.  Tel (021) 441-3000

*   The Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz, Franschhoek: 3 courses R375.  Tel (021) 876-2729

Christmas Day lunch

*   The Square Restaurant, Vineyard Hotel: 3-course lunch R 415. Tel (021) 657-4500

*   Azure Restaurant, Twelve Apostles Hotel: Buffet lunch, party hats, gift, crackers R945.  Tel (021) 437-9052 (sold out)

*   The Pavilion at The Marine, Marine Hotel, Hermanus: welcome drink, canapés, Christmas lunch, petit fours R 595.  Tel (028) 313-1000

* Il Cappero, Camps Bay: 6-course lunch with glass of Prosecco R350  Tel (021) 438-7074

*   Planet Restaurant, Mount Nelson hotel: 5-course lunch R 950. Tel (021) 483-1000

*   Ballroom, Mount Nelson hotel: Buffet R700.  Tel (021) 483-1000

*   1800° Restaurant, Cape Royale Luxury Hotel, Green Point: Christmas Lunch Buffet R320. Tel (021) 430-0506.

*   Tobago’s, Radisson Blu: Buffet R595.  Tel (021) 441-3000

*   Le Franschhoek hotel, Franschhoek:  Buffet R 395.  Tel (021) 876-8900

*   Le Coq Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Franschhoek: 3 courses R240. Tel (021) 876-4404

*  The Franschhoek Kitchen, Holden Manz, Franschhoek:   3 courses R375.  Tel ()21) 876-2729

New Year’s Eve

* Café Chic: 6-course dinner R485.  Tel (021) 465-7218

*   Il Cappero, Camps Bay: 8-course dinner and glass of Prosecco R 450.  Tel (021) 438-7074

*   Blues, Camps Bay: 4-course dinner, DJ, and unlimited bubbly R1700   Tel (021) 438-2040

*   Zenzero, Camps Bay:  3-course dinner and welcome drink R 1000.  Tel (021) 438-0007

*   Hussar Grill, Camps Bay: 4-courses R475.  Tel (021) 438-0151

*   Azure at Twelve Apostles Hotel, Camps Bay: Buffet and live music R 1895.  Tel ()21) 437-9000

*   The Conservatory at The Cellars-Hohenhort, R750.  Tel (021) 794-2137

*   Constantia Uitsig: 5-course dinner R 850.  Tel (021) 794-4480

*   Five Flies: 4-course menu, masked ball, and sparkling wine R600.  Tel (021) 424-4442

*   The Greenhouse, Cellars-Hohenhort, Constantia: 9-course dinner R950, or R1250 with wine.  Tel (021) 794-2137

*   La Colombe, Constantia: 5-course dinner, DJ, sparkling wine at midnight R1600.  Tel (021) 794-2390

*   La Mouette, Sea Point: 5-course meal and glass of sparkling wine R795. Tel (021) 433-0856

* 1800° Restaurant, Green Point: 6-course dinner, and entrance to the VIP Sky Bar R1200.  Tel (021) 430-0506

*   Myoga, Vineyard Hotel, Newlands: 7-course meal at R850.  Tel (021) 657-4545

*   Nobu, One&Only Cape Town, V&A Waterfront: 8-course dinner and band R2250. Tel (021) 431-5222

*   Orinoco: 3-course dinner, ‘Sixties’ theme, DJ, welcome cocktail, canapés, glass of sparkling wine R600.  Tel (021) 418-4544

*   Reuben’s at One&Only Cape Town: 5-course dinner and band R1750.  Tel (021) 431-5222

*   The Roundhouse, Camps Bay: 3-course dinner, live music and DJ, sparkling wine R1650.  Tel (021) 438-4347

*   Salt Restaurant, Ambassador Hotel: 8-course tasting menu, glass of sparkling wine, band R995.  Tel (021) 439-7258

*   Savoy Cabbage: Canapés, Christmas cocktail, gala dinner R995.  Tel (021) 424-2626

*   Signal, Cape Grace hotel, V&A Waterfront:  4-course dinnerR1950.  Tel (021) 410-7100

*   The Table Bay Hotel, V&A Waterfront: cocktail reception, Buffet dinner, sparkling wine R2100.  Tel (021) 406-5000

*   Tjing Tjing Bar, Dear Me: entrance fee, food, and party R300.  Tel (021) 422-4920

*   The Boat House, Scarborough: 5-course dinner and sparkling wine R980.  Transfer R500 pp.  Tel 083 305 8533

*   Massimo’s, Hout Bay: Welcome drink, 4 course dinner R425.  Tel (021) 790-5645

*   GOLD: Cocktail on arrival, drumming, live music, ‘African Feast’, bubbly R1100.  Tel (021) 421-4653

*   Makaron, Majeka House, Stellenbosch: 4-course dinner R625.  Tel (021) 880-1549

*   Moyo, Spier, Stellenbosch: Welcome drink, 3-course meal, R495.  Tel (021) 809-1133

*   Restaurant at Clos Malverne, Stellenbosch: 8-course food and wine pairing R468.  Tel (021) 865-2022

*   Tokara, Stellenbosch: 8-course dinner R950.  Tel (021) 885-2550

*   Eat @ Simonsig, Paarl:   Live band, 3-courses, bubbly at midnight R275.  Tel (021) 863-3845.

*   The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Franschhoek: Welcome drink and midnight glass of sparkling wine as well as dancing, 7-course dinner R790.  Tel (021) 876-8600

*   The Kitchen, Maison, Franschhoek: 8 courses, each paired with a Maison Estate wine, R950.  Tel (021) 876-2116.

*   Reuben’s, Franschhoek: 6-course dinner R1200. Tel (021) 876-3772

*   Le Coq Restaurant & Sushi Bar, Franschhoek: 3 courses and a glass of sparkling wine R280. Tel (021) 876-4404

*   The Restaurant at Waterkloof, Somerset West: 6-course meal R650, or R825 with wine.  Tel (021) 858-1292

*   The Pavilion at The Marine, Marine Hotel, Hermanus:  Canapés, welcome drink, 6-course menu, R1150.  Tel (028) 313-1000

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have only 3 more gripping episodes to look forward to in this season 1. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 19.

We are also running the last of a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA every week. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 17 today (10 July), Grande Provence has generously offered a 3-course restaurant voucher for two, to the value of R600, to the winner.

Darren Badenhorst is the new Executive Chef at Grande Provence.  He left school in Durban to study marketing, but gave up after a year, because he realised that his passion lay in cooking. He enrolled at the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine, the most prominent culinary school in KwaZulu-Natal, where he did a one year intensive, ‘extremely strenuous’, diploma course.  From there he went to the Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique as Executive Chef, but his stay was short-lived, having to evacuate the island after the worst ever cyclone to hit Africa destroyed most buildings on the island. He was appointed at Zimbali Boutique Hotel as Chef de Partie. He then moved to Eat Me Gourmet Café, a private contract catering company, and to Three Cities‘ One on One Events catering company, promoted to Executive Chef.  Feeling that he had reached a glass ceiling, he moved to the Cape, and joined Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof. In this time he met Grande Provence Chef Darren Roberts at one of the magnificent Big Five Multiple Sclerosis charity lunches at which Waterkloof had participated. He started at Grande Provence over a year ago, and has taken over from Chef Darren Roberts, who has taken up an appointment in the Seychelles.

He sees the level of cuisine in the Cape to be far beyond that of any other region, and believes that competition between restaurants brings out the best in them, and is key to creating consistency. Flair and passion must show at all times.  He admires Neil Jewell for his charcuterie, there being no comparison, and Chef Margot Janse from Le Quartier Français, for her creativity and experimentation with the food that she prepares.  Chef Darren Badenhorst says that he will not change the menu drastically, sticking to the fine dining French cuisine with an Asian twist.  The quality will be the same, but he will add his stamp to it.  He has a small team of six in the kitchen, which will grow next summer.  He lives on the Grande Provence farm, and loves his job, rarely taking time off.  He likes to create dishes with balance, in texture and in colour. Coming from the Natal coast, he loves diving and spearfishing, and also therefore preparing seafood. His first new addition to the menu is a delicious soft shell crab starter on pan-fried sushi with sesame seed, with a soft boiled yolk presented in a beautifully crafted kataifi pastry, the colour coming from a red pepper aioli, and finished off with soya and wasabi pearls.  His new Ballontine of Chicken with a bone marrow centre, truffle of pomme duchess, carrot and cardamom pureé, morel mushrooms, cracked black pepper, and fresh Japanese truffle, is an artistic portrait that could have been framed and hung in the Grande Provence Gallery!  Chef Darren’s latest dish, which I ordered on Friday, is ‘Bacon and Eggs‘, a starter with home-cured bacon, quail egg soufflé, brioche, and hollandaise sauce.

Karl Lambour, previously with Holden Manz and Constantia Glen, is the new GM of Grande Provence.

Tweet your prediction of which of the 4 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or write it as a comment to this blogpost. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 10 July at 19h30, at the start of episode 17.  The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize will go into the main prize for predicting the winner of MasterChef South Africa, in episode 19.

POSTSCRIPT 10/7: Cassandra Cupido has won the Grande Provence voucher, having correctly predicted that Sarel Loots would be eliminated in the Pressure Test tonight.  Congratulations.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8600.  www.grandeprovence.co.za Twitter: @GrandeProvence  Monday – Sunday Lunch, Monday – Saturday Dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have only 3 more gripping episodes to look forward to in this season 1. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 18.

We are also running the last of a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA every week. For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 16 on Tuesday (3 July), Grande Provence has generously offered a 3-course restaurant voucher for two, to the value of R600, to the winner.

Darren Badenhorst is the new Executive Chef at Grande Provence.  He left school in Durban to study marketing, but gave up after a year, because he realised that his passion lay in cooking. He enrolled at the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine, the most prominent culinary school in KwaZulu-Natal, where he did a one year intensive, ‘extremely strenuous’, diploma course.  From there he went to the Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique as Executive Chef, but his stay was short-lived, having to evacuate the island after the worst ever cyclone to hit Africa destroyed most buildings on the island. He was appointed at Zimbali Boutique Hotel as Chef de Partie. He then moved to Eat Me Gourmet Café, a private contract catering company, and to Three Cities‘ One on One Events catering company, promoted to Executive Chef.  Feeling that he had reached a glass ceiling, he moved to the Cape, and joined Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof. In this time he met Grande Provence Chef Darren Roberts at one of the magnificent Big Five Multiple Sclerosis charity lunches at which Waterkloof had participated. He started at Grande Provence over a year ago, and has taken over from Chef Darren Roberts, who has taken up an appointment in the Seychelles.

He sees the level of cuisine in the Cape to be far beyond that of any other region, and believes that competition between restaurants brings out the best in them, and is key to creating consistency. Flair and passion must show at all times.  He admires Neil Jewell for his charcuterie, there being no comparison, and Chef Margot Janse from Le Quartier Français, for her creativity and experimentation with the food that she prepares.  Chef Darren Badenhorst says that he will not change the menu drastically, sticking to the fine dining French cuisine with an Asian twist.  The quality will be the same, but he will add his stamp to it.  He has a small team of six in the kitchen, which will grow next summer.  He lives on the Grande Provence farm, and loves his job, rarely taking time off.  He likes to create dishes with balance, in texture and in colour. Coming from the Natal coast, he loves diving and spearfishing, and also therefore preparing seafood. His first new addition to the menu is a delicious soft shell crab starter on pan-fried sushi with sesame seed, with a soft boiled yolk presented in a beautifully crafted kataifi pastry, the colour coming from a red pepper aioli, and finished off with soya and wasabi pearls.  His new Ballontine of Chicken with a bone marrow centre, truffle of pomme duchess, carrot and cardamom pureé, morel mushrooms, cracked black pepper, and fresh Japanese truffle, is an artistic portrait that could have been framed and hung in the Grande Provence Gallery!

Karl Lambour, previously with Holden Manz and Constantia Glen, is the new GM of Grande Provence.

Tweet your prediction of which of the 5 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or write it as a comment to this blogpost. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 3 July at 19h30, at the start of episode 16.  The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize will go into the main prize for predicting the winner of MasterChef South Africa.

POSTSCRIPT 3/7: There was no winner of this prize tonight, as no one guessed that Lungile Nhlanhla would be sent home from MasterChef SA tonight. It will be packaged into the main competition prize for correctly guessing the winner of MasterChef SA.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8600.  www.grandeprovence.co.za Twitter: @GrandeProvence  Monday – Sunday Lunch, Monday – Saturday Dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.comTwitter:@WhaleCottage

MasterChef SA is the talk of the country, and we have 12 more gripping episodes to look forward to in the next three months. To spice things up a little, we have launched two competitions, the first being a prediction of who will win MasterChef SA in episode 18.

We are also running a weekly lucky draw for the correct prediction of who our readers think will be booted out of the MasterChef SA every week.  For the correct prediction of who will leave MasterChef SA in episode 7 tomorrow (1 May), Grande Provence has generously offered a 3-course restaurant voucher for two, to the value of R600 to the winner.

It is sad to have bid Chef Darren Roberts goodbye, who was at the helm of the Grande Provence kitchen for almost three years and took it to an Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant. He is leaving to take up a new position at a hospitality group in the Seychelles.  Chef Darren Roberts is very talented, and his plating has been most impressive.  Following in his footsteps, and having been the sous chef for the past year, is the new Executive Chef Darren Badenhorst, who takes over the Grande Provence kitchen from today.  The two chefs handed over to each other in the past month already, when Chef Darren Roberts went to Australia.

Chef Darren Badenhorst left school in Durban to study marketing, but gave up after a year, because he realised that his passion lay in cooking. He enrolled at the Christina Martin School of Food and Wine, the most prominent culinary school in KwaZulu-Natal, where he did a  one year intensive, ‘extremely strenuous’, diploma course.  From there he went to the Benguerra Lodge in Mozambique as Executive Chef, but his stay was short-lived, having to evacuate the island after the worst ever cyclone to hit Africa destroyed most buildings on the island. He was appointed at Zimbali Boutique Hotel as Chef de Partie. He then moved to Eat Me Gourmet Café, a private contract catering company,  moving to Three Cities‘ One on One Events catering company, promoted to Executive Chef. Feeling that he had reached a glass ceiling, he moved to the Cape, and joined Gregory Czarnecki at Waterkloof. In this time he met Chef Darren Roberts at one of the magnificent Big Five Multiple Sclerosis charity lunches at which Waterkloof had participated, and saw him as an ‘industry dad’. The two chefs will stay in touch, having been a good team.

He sees the level of cuisine in the Cape to be far beyond that of any other region, and believes that competition between restaurants brings out the best in them, and is key to creating consistency. Flair and passion must show at all times.  He admires Chef Neil Jewell for his charcuterie, there being no comparison, and Chef Margot Janse from Le Quartier Francais, for her creativity and experimentation with the food that she prepares.  Chef Darren Badenhorst says that he will not change the menu drastically, sticking to the fine dining French cuisine with an Asian twist.  The quality will be the same, but he will add his stamp to it.  He has a small team of six in the kitchen, which will grow next summer.  He lives on the Grande Provence farm, and loves his job, rarely taking time off.  He likes to create dishes with balance, in texture and in colour.  Coming from the Natal coast, he loves diving and spearfishing, and also therefore preparing seafood. His first new addition to the menu is a delicious soft shell crab starter on pan-fried sushi with sesame seed, with a soft boiled yolk presented in a beautifully crafted kataifi pastry, the colour coming from a red pepper aioli, and finished off with soya and wasabi pearls.

Tweet your prediction of which of the 14 remaining finalists will be booted out of MasterChef SA to @WhaleCottage, or e-mail it to whalecot@iafrica.com. Closing time for entries is Tuesday 1 May at 19h30, at the start of episode 7.  The winner will be contacted immediately after the show ends. There will be a weekly Restaurant Voucher prize draw per episode for the correct prediction of who will be booted out of MasterChef SA, and voting for the following episode can start as soon as that day’s episode has been aired. Should there be no correct entry received, the prize is rolled over to go to another week.

POSTSCRIPT 1/5: No one correctly predicted that Mmutsi Maseko would be voted out in episode 7 this evening.  The Grande Provence restaurant voucher will go forward to another MasterChef SA week.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence, R45, Franschhoek. Tel (021) 876-8600. www.grandeprovence.co.za Twitter: @DarrenBChef  Monday – Sunday, Lunch and Dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

JP Rossouw’s Restaurant 3-star list is usually published ahead of the Eat Out Restaurant Awards. and helped to serve as a predictor for the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant list.  This year it could not be used, as the Eat Out event is taking place a week earlier, and Rossouw Restaurants’ 2012 3-star list was only announced on Twitter for the first time yesterday, on the eve of the 2011 Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards, taking place at the Rotunda at the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay this evening.

Interesting firstly is that a Platinum Award for best 3-star restaurant has not been awarded by Rossouw, writing on Twitter that “Rossouw’s 2012 Platinum Award for standout 3 Star not awarded this ed. Changes & notable newcomers not yet achieved a track record” .  Yet stalwarts like The Tasting Room, Terroir, Overture have been consistent and around for some time.

Comparing Rossouw’s list of 24 3-star restaurants with the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant finalist shortlist of twenty, the following ten exclusions from Rossouw’s 3-star list are evident:  Tokara, Pierneef à La Motte, The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Hartford House, Planet Restaurant, Bosman’s, Azure, Roots, Restaurant Maison, and Babel.  The ten restaurants that the lists have in common are Greenhouse, Jordan Restaurant with George Jardine, La Colombe, Nobu, Overture, The Roundhouse, The Tasting Room, Terroir, The Test Kitchen, and DW Eleven-13.  Bizarre is that Zachary’s at Pezula is included, in that it only operates two nights a week!

The 24 3-star 2012 Rossouw’s Restaurants are the following:

Western Cape:  95 Keerom Street, Aubergine, Bizerca Bistro, The Common Room, Greenhouse, Ile de Pain, Jordan Restaurant, La Colombe, Mariana’s, Nobu, Overture, Roundhouse, Rust en Vrede, The Tasting Room, Terroir, The Test Kitchen, and Zachary’s.

KwaZulu-Natal: 9th Avenue Bistro

Gauteng:  Butcher Shop & Grill, Cube, DW Eleven-13, Grillhouse, Ritrivo, and Thomas Maxwell Bistro.

Interesting is that two chefs have told me that recent reviews by Rossouw of their restaurants have appeared to settle old scores,  and that what Rossouw writes in his Business Day reviews often contradicts what he posts about the restaurants on his website or publishes in his book.  This is unprofessional behaviour from Rossouw, and may be a reason why his ratings and reviews have little significance.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Earlier this week I had a taste of some of the new summer menu items at The Restaurant at Grande Provence, in exchange for some Twitter lessons I shared with Chef Darren Roberts.   By co-incidence, The Gallery at Grande Provence had some works of art in honour of Twitter, and so the visit to Grande Provence in Franschhoek became an unusual marriage of Twitter art and food art.

Artist Hester Viles linked up with fellow artist Emma Willemse in an exhibition entitled “How to”, and in it the artists question the ways in which knowledge is acquired.  ’Contemporary consumer society (is) addicted to instant gratification aided by technological sources’, says the artists’ notes.  The ability of finding information and ‘quick fix solutions to almost any problem’ at the press of a button, such as searching Google, makes knowledge a ‘consumer item’, they state.  Ms Viles Googled ‘How to’, and used the links that came up for the inspiration for her art.  Her pieces question the connection between information, knowledge and experience.   She used discarded objects which once were important as symbols of achievement (i.e. a musical instrument, a trophy) as the basis of her pieces,  and communicated through them ‘our society’s obsessive social networking through computer technology’. She feels that Social Media has taken away personal and eye-to-eye contact, and though her work “How to Tweet effectively” (two pieces), she ‘raises issues of identity, who we are and what we have become’, encouraging the viewer to go back to communicating via touch.

Chef Darren and I debated more practical issues of Twitter over lunch, such as the timing of Tweets, the power of and the sending of photographs, pre-scheduling Tweets, and the following of Tweeters, interspersed with a new starter, main course and dessert to be added to the Grand Provence summer menu. Currently one is offered twenty choices on the 3-course (R295), 4-course (R380), and 5-course (R450) menu. Favourites that will remain on the menu include caramelised eel and foie gras terrine, tartare and carpaccio of springbok, gateaux of duck and pork rillettes, Masala-marinated quail, slow-cooked duck with grilled lobster, and grilled baby beef fillet.  Grande Provence has featured on the Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant Awards every second year, and Chef Darren deserves to be listed this year for the good work he and his team create in a very understated way.

I have been impressed with the ability of Chef Darren to create the most beautifully designed plates of food, and his new summery sugar-cured Norwegian salmon presented with a deconstructed Waldorf salad was colourful, and a creative interpretation of a classic. It contained apple dyed with beetroot, celery sorbet, and walnut soil, served with lemon bergamot rind.  The starter had been preceded by the home-baked mini health loaf, which is more-ish, and of which I am a regular purchaser when in Franschhoek. The main course was called ‘Suckling Pig’, and was a fun medley of a double loin chop, belly, boudin blanc sausage on mash, rump, and crackling, with colourful additions of pear, butternut, saffron, and tatsoi, served with an apple and hazelnut sauce.

For dessert I tried the Banana Parfait and banana, with patron anglaise, a roasted macadamia nut salsa, rocky road ice cream, and topped with the most delicate fine sugar spiral.  While the cappuccino is more expensive at Grande Provence, at R22, it is excellent value in that it comes with a surprise slate plate of three treats: Turkish delight, biscotti, and white chocolate fudge.

I admire chefs for their ability to re-invent themselves and their menus, and Chef Darren impresses with his talent of unique combinations of ingredients which are works of food art presented with style .   Most of the restaurant staff have been at Grande Provence for a number of years, and offer respectful and friendly service, guided by Manager Donovan Dreyer.

The Restaurant at Grande Provence, Main Road, Franschhoek.  Tel (021) 876-8600.  www.grandeprovence.co.za.  Monday – Sunday lunch and dinner.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

The number of 2012 American Express Platinum Fine Dining Programme restaurants has dropped for the first time in its 14 year history, down from 88 restaurants in 2011 to 78 this year, with twelve of last year’s winners having closed their doors, reports Chef!.  This demonstrates the severity of the hospitality crisis.

The dominance of the Western Cape, with 33 of the 78 awards, highlights that the province is the cuisine capital of South Africa.  New award entrants are also largely from the Cape, being Nobu, Bistro Sixteen82, Planet Restaurant, Reuben’s at the One&Only, and Pierneef à La Motte, out of eight new entrants.  Three re-admissions are The Restaurant at Grande Provence (photograph), Bosman’s at the Grande Roche Hotel, and Saagries in Johannesburg.

Chefs said that the recognition is welcome, in being a member of the fine dining programme, given the difficult time of the year, after a very long and bleak winter.  The major criterion for consideration by the Programme organiser Tamsin Snyman, in partnership with restaurant critic Victor Strugo, is accepting payment by American Express, which may have disqualified many other top restaurants (such as Dash, The Test Kitchen, Casparus, Johan’s @ Longridge, Terroir, Waterkloof, Indochine, Tokara, and Delaire Graff) from being eligible for evaluation. The judges evaluated the quality and creativity of the cuisine, the service, the wine list, decor and ambiance, the overall excellence, and acceptance of a booking for a table of four on the same day.

Eight of last year’s Programme restaurants did not make the 2012 list, including Rust en Vrede (probably due to the departure of Chef David Higgs), Haute Cabriére Cellar Restaurant (probably due to the recent change in chef), Emily’s, Myoga, Bizerca and Belthazar. Snyman said that ‘there is an increasing mediocrity on the South African fine dining restaurant scene’, reports Chef! The restaurants that have closed their doors in the past year include Auberge Michel, Linger Longer, Jardine, and Hunter’s Country Restaurant.

The 2102 American Express Platinum Fine Dining Programme restaurants are as follows, according to Business Day:

CAPE PENINSULAAubergine, Buitenverwachting, Bukhara (city bowl), Catharina’s, Constantia Uitsig, The Food Barn, Gold, The Greenhouse, Haiku; Il Leone, La Colombe, Roundhouse, Savoy Cabbage
CAPE WINELANDS:  96 Winery Road, Boschendal, Bread & Wine, Fraai Uitzicht 1798, French Connection Bistro, Jardine at Jordan, Mimosa Lodge, Overture @ Hidden Valley, The Pavilion, Reuben’s (Franschhoek), Seafood @ The Marine, Tasting Room at Le Quartier Français
EASTERN CAPE: Hacklewood Hill (Port Elizabeth)
FREE STATE:  De Oude Kraal
KLEIN KAROO:  Kalinka Karoo Cuisine
GARDEN ROUTE: La Locanda (George), Sand @ The Plettenberg, Zinzi @ Tsala (Plettenberg Bay), Serendipity (Wilderness), Trans Karoo (Great Brak), Pembreys, Zachary’s at Pezula (Knysna)
JOHANNESBURG: Bellagio, Bellgables, Bukhara (Sandton), Butcher Shop & Grill, Byzance, La Cucina di Ciro, Gramadoelas, La Campagnola, Le Canard, Mastrantonia, Metzuyan, Osteria Tre Nonni, Piccolo Mondo, Pigalle (Sandton), Roots @ Forum Homini, Saxon, Sel et Poivre, Wombles, Yamato
PRETORIA:  Geet, La Madeleine, La Pentola, Mosaic, Ritrovo Ristorante,
KWAZULU-NATAL: Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, Daruma, Hartford House, Harvey’s, Ile Maurice, Roma Revolving Restaurant, Spice, Sugar Club

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage